London-based producer Ikonika (Sara Abdel-Hamid) titled her third album Distractions as a way to explain the four-year gap between it and her second album, 2013's excellent Aerotropolis. She implies that she was too preoccupied to complete the album in a brisk, timely manner, but she also means for the music itself to be a distraction from the horrors of the world's political climate and events. Distractions has a slight dystopian sci-fi theme similar to previous Hyperdub albums such as Kode9's Nothing and NOTU_URONLINEU by DVA [Hi:Emotions], but it doesn't seem anywhere near as bleak as those releases. As with Aerotropolis, Distractions shows how far Abdel-Hamid has progressed as a producer since coming up during the late 2000s as part of the then-emerging dubstep scene. Expanding beyond the Latin freestyle and acid house influences present on Aerotropolis, here she embraces early-'90s R&B, grime, trap, and even shades of Front 242-esque EBM (as evident by the somewhat sinister but still airy opening chords of lead track "Girlfriend"). Her productions are filled with warm pads and deep bass, and as detailed and sophisticated as the arrangements are, they're still spacious and uncluttered. The tracks are generally vivid and often optimistic-sounding; even though one of the album's most trap-influenced cuts is titled "Manual Decapitation," it doesn't sound quite as threatening or terror-stricken as one might expect. Other songs such as "Lear" feature galloping, deconstructed beats and inviting atmospheres, as well as plenty of reflective echo. "Do I Watch It Like a Cricket Match" is a little more hazy and distorted, and a P Money-esque rap by Jammz lets out personal frustrations during "Sacrifice." "Love Games" manages to tell a story of a back-and-forth relationship simply through its constant dial tones, bass bleeps, and tense synths rather than lyrics. "Not Actual Gameplay" has a sparse midtempo bounce, with just enough going on so that it expresses a calm, content sense of solitude. The album ends with two slow, crushed tracks, the last of which features yearning, affectionate vocals from Hyperdub star Jessy Lanza. Abdel-Hamid takes her sound in numerous directions and explores several moods on Distractions, and while it seems scattered enough to live up to its title, it's as engaging as anything else she's released.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson